This week as a special treat we have allowed Notre Dame Insider Shannon O’Keefe to take off her journalists hat and invited Brad Kurtzberg over from Fantasy Football Insiders to go mano-a-mano. Did I mention Shannon is a Notre Dame grad and Brad is a Michigan alum?
OK Maize and Blue fans and Golden Domers let's here it for your schools! I'm assuming neither one of you is up for making a case for your team to win this week's game (how could you?), so lets duke it out for top program in America! Who has the better tradition? The better fight song? Nickname? How about the uniforms? More importantly the helmets...is it that "just sprayed on shine" of ND or the winged helmets of Michigan?
BRAD: Hey Shannon. Let's start with something simple...Michigan is still the #1 NCAA Div 1-A school in total wins and winning percentage. Plus, I do believe it was Michigan who taught Notre Dame how to play football and helped start its program back in the day.
SHANNON: So you got us in the first game. Congratulations, 1887 was a big year for you guys. But really, there's no comparing the history. Notre Dame's program is the stuff of legends. The four horsemen. Knute Rockne. Even Rudy exists in the public sphere in a way that no second rate Michigan defensive lineman ever could.
(We have) 13 National Championships to your 10. And you're only leading us on the all-time winning percentage by two hundredths of a point. Even our rickety offensive line could hold you to two hundredths of a point.
BRAD: Legends, yes but how much substance is there behind the legends? So, Notre Dame has had a better PR Department. Everybody knows Notre Dame is a favorite of the polls and always has been. Their popularity gives them that, but not what's really on the playing field. Rudy is perhaps the ultimate example. The guy was in on one meaningless play at the end of a game and they made a movie out of it. Pure PR but it doesn't make for a better program, just a more well known one.
As for ND offensive line holding Michigan to two hundredths of a point, obviously, they haven't or we wouldn't be ahead of you by them.
U of M and Notre Dame are two of the most distinguished and best run programs in the country. But Michigan is more substance than the "legend" of Notre Dame.
SHANNON: Legends are different from fairy tales. A strong Sports Information office is a huge plus, I agree. But you can't spin good press out of bad programs. People feel inspired by Notre Dame. As a kid, I watched Rocket Ismail run and run and run and it made me want to go to Notre Dame. I watched Forrest Gump run too, but it didn't make me want to go shrimping.
I think what you're saying is that there is an intangible at Notre Dame, and you're right. People who have no connection to the place cheer their whole lives for our team. Because they feel inspired to do so. I like thinking that people feel inspired by Notre Dame. I like feeling inspired by Notre Dame. Talk about inspiration - look at the recruiting class for '08. We already have 19 commitments (to your 15), including one five-star stud and 14 four-stars. Dayne Crist, the third best pro-style quarterback in the country, still wants to come in behind Jimmy Clausen, still wants to learn from Charlie Weis.
I respect your program. I've been to the Big House, and it's impressively large and impressively loud. But I'd take Clausen's young and inexperienced arm in Notre Dame Stadium any day over Mike Hart's legs in the Big House. It might not make sense on paper, but that's inspiration for you.
BRAD: I respect the tradition at Notre Dame...Touchdown Jesus, Knute Rockne etc...But give me Michigan....highest attendance in all of college football...100,000 plus per home game since before most of us were born...the most living alumni of any American University....the most wins and highest winning percentage of any Division I-A school....unique helmets that make a statement and oh yes, the best darn fight song in college football (I'll give u ND as a close 2nd). If "The Victors" doesn't stir up your blood and get you ready for college football, you're either not a college football fan or you're from Ohio....
SHANNON: This is the best part of college football, and the reason why I'll never love the NFL quite as much. I actually think about helmets and fight songs and alumni when considering the quality of the program. I actually feel a little bit gushy about Notre Dame football. I think our helmets are better because they're painted with real gold – from the Golden Dome! - which sounds ridiculous but somehow makes it all feel more legit; ties it all together; makes you believe in God, Country, Notre Dame. I think our fight song is better (though, to be fair, Michigan's is grand). There's nothing like having a couple of pre-game beers and then streaming into the stadium while the band knocks out the fight song. For a second there, I really thought I'd rather be in South Bend than Manhattan. That's how amazing it feels to be there. That's why I love college football.
The real question is what's going to happen to an already struggling Michigan team without Henne. Our freshman quarterback has had a game plus to work out some kinks, plus the kid is preternaturally poised. Seriously, I've never seen anyone so ready to play. Ryan Mallett may have been around for spring practices, but let's see how long he lasts in the fall.
BRAD: I think both QBs have their work cut out for them. Being a freshman QB is very tough in this day and age. I think ND has a slight advantage because Mallett has not been preparing to start until this week.
As for ND's helmets, they are really spray-painted. They are sharp, but silver or gold helmets are just painted while other colored helmets are actually their final color. One thing I do like about ND is their green jerseys, which they only use on special occasions. Think about the great players that have played for both teams, the fight songs, the facilities, the helmets, the traditions...Notre Dame and Michigan....can anything BE more representative of the greatness of college football. Even in an off year for both teams, it gets the juices flowing. Good luck, Shannon, but GO BLUE!
SHANNON: Back at you, Brad. I look forward to the game against Michigan every year - always exciting, and exactly what college football is supposed to be. Best of luck. I think the game is going to get a bit ugly and that both offenses will stutter, but I believe we'll pull this one out in the end. Go Irish!